WILKINSBURG, February 15, 2024 – State Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, today joined Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Senator Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia), Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and several members of the House Democratic Policy Committee to host a joint public hearing on legislation that would establish a statewide policy on the sealing of eviction records.

The hearing, held at the Wilkinsburg Borough Building in Allegheny County, included discussion about the impact of evictions on Pennsylvania residents, the importance of fair and affordable housing, and the legal implications of not sealing eviction records.

“Today’s joint hearing really highlighted the need for legislation to establish a statewide eviction record sealing policy,” Muth said. “Eviction sealing allows individuals to move forward, learn from their experiences, and rebuild their lives without fear that any past evictions will prevent them from accessing safe, affordable housing.”

Several Senate Democrats are currently drafting a companion bill to House Bill 1769, which would establish procedures for limited access to eviction records. The bill would require courts to seal eviction case files unless and until a renter loses the case in court, at which point the records would be unsealed.

“As the leader of the PA Senate Democratic Caucus, I am proud to be working with my colleagues to find ways to deliver safe, affordable homes for every Pennsylvanian,” Costa said. “Today’s conversation illuminated the urgency of removing barriers to housing for our families across PA, and I look forward to continuing this conversation as we go forward.”

A recent report published by PolicyLink and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia indicated that eviction records negatively affect a person’s credit score and lessen future housing opportunities. Limited in this way, people many times are forced to live in unsafe housing or experience homelessness.

“A single eviction filing inflicts lasting harm on a family, disrupting access to safe housing, employment and educational opportunities, and enduring connections with their communities,” Senator Saval, Minority Chair of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, added. “A statewide eviction record sealing policy will protect renters in the short term and lay the groundwork for more equitable housing and health outcomes for Pennsylvanians of all backgrounds. With one in 14 renter households at risk for an eviction filing, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has a chance to shift the landscape.”

In 2021, the City of Philadelphia enacted the Renters’ Access Act to restrict landlord’s use of eviction court records in housing decisions. And according to data tracked by PolicyLink, there are 15 states that have enacted policies that seal or expunge eviction records or restrict how landlords can screen tenants.

“All over the Commonwealth, the cost of housing is rising at an alarming rate, and more and more Pennsylvanians struggle to find affordable, safe homes. While we are in the midst of a housing crisis, wrongful and no-fault evictions are permanent on a tenant’s record,” Schwank said. “These no-fault evictions are another needless barrier working-class Pennsylvanians must overcome while seeking the affordable, safe housing they deserve. I’m proud to co-host this hearing with my colleagues and hope we can bring more attention to an issue the legislature must address.”

In testimony provided during the hearing, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia attorney Holly Beck indicated that the burden of eviction records is not distributed evenly among communities: landlords disproportionately file against households of color, people with disabilities, and women, and these communities therefore disproportionately feel the burden of eviction records. Black women raising small children experience more eviction filings than any other demographic group.

“An eviction filing can significantly impair a person’s ability to secure housing for the rest of their lives, even if that filing is without merit or is dismissed. And without a home address, it can be almost impossible to get a job, schooling, or other benefits that we take for granted every day,” Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) added. “I’m grateful to today’s panelists for sharing their experiences and explaining why we need a statewide eviction sealing policy.”

Additional participants in the hearing included Haley Passione, Court Resource Navigator, RentHelp PGH; Holly Beck, Division Supervising Attorney, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia; Deanna Dyer, Policy Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Kyle Webster, Vice President of Housing and General Counsel, Action Housing; Maura Jacob, Policy & Community Impact Officer, The Pittsburgh Foundation; and Aaron Zappia, Director of Government Affairs, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Senator Tim Kearney (D-Delaware) also virtually participated in the joint policy hearing.

All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy.

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Panel 1: Affected People

Panel 2: Legal Implications

Panel 3: Advocacy

Additional Testimony